Musical production spoofs, celebrates ‘Hamilton’
‘Spamilton’ runs through April 7 at Calderwood Pavilion
Parody—the art of imitation with intent to mock, often with affection—has produced great entertainment in the hands of Boston native Gerard Alessandrini, mastermind of “Forbidden Broadway,” the long-running review that spoofed and at the same time celebrated a decade’s worth of top musicals and stars.
Now, Huntington Theatre Company is presenting a touring production of Alessandrini’s “Spamilton: An American Parody,” on stage through April 7 at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts in the South End.
Unlike “Forbidden Broadway,” this show is devoted to deflating a single musical theater juggernaut, “Hamilton,” which won eleven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and earned for its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, a Pulitzer Prize for the book and a Grammy for the music.
Written and directed by Alessandrini, “Spamilton: An American Parody” debuted Off-Broadway in 2016 to critical acclaim even from Miranda himself, who on Twitter posted the message, “I laughed my brains out.”
Yet the 80-minute, intermission-free show only delivers its full payload of humor to those who have seen the original show or delved deeply into its cast album. And some of its wit is inaudible because the parody mimics the rapid pace of Miranda’s rap score and exaggerates its rhythmic repetitiveness, turning some lyrics into a multisyllabic blur.
However, the six-member singing and dancing cast is first rate and they keep the level of visual comedy high. They and hard-working pianist and musical director Curtis Reynolds, visible on the side of the stage, give their all to the supercharged proceedings.
Alessandrini shapes his parody with a plot, imagining Miranda as a revolutionary on a mission to save Broadway from the fusty, commercialized bombast of its bloated productions.
Adrian Lopez, the actor playing Miranda, bears an amusing resemblance to his character, down to the slightly annoying sweetness of Miranda’s facial expression on magazine covers.
Commencing his crusade, Lopez, as Miranda, sings a knock-off of a song in the original show, “My Shot,” vowing, “I am not going to let Broadway rot! I am not throwing away my shot.” In one of the show’s funniest scenes, Miranda, casting about for a worthy project, pulls out a ten-dollar bill and sees Hamilton on it. Eureka! He has found his cause.
The cast conjures an array of characters, including the founding fathers portrayed in “Hamilton” as well as the actors in its cast. Chuckie Benson plays Ben Franklin and George Washington and Miranda’s hero, musical theater icon Stephen Sondheim, who advises Miranda to keep his lyrics simple as another cast member, a singer in a Sondheim production, laments, “Another hundred syllables came out of my mouth.”
As a caped and crowned King George III, Brandon Kinley injected great humor into simply standing still and looking uneasy while the cast sang “Straight is Back,” Alessandrini’s nod to the absence of gay characters in Miranda’s musicals.
Wearing an immense Afro, Dominic Pecikonis spoofs the big hair of Daveed Diggs, Grammy winning actor in the Broadway production. Datus Puryear is both Hamilton’s nemesis, Aaron Burr, and Leslie Odom Jr., a “Hamilton” Tony recipient.
Alessandrini’s production veers from its plot to satirize some big Broadway shows and stars. The sensational Ani Djirdjirian, the sole female member of the cast, ignites this worn and familiar material with her verve.